TRANSPORT Secretary Chris Grayling reaffirmed his commitment to plans to improve the A358 to Taunton when he visited Somerset's county town today.

Mr Grayling spoke to representatives from local councils across the south west as well industry experts at Cooper Associates County Ground today (Friday, February 15).

Mr Grayling took questions about the planned A358 and A303 improvements, plans to improve rail links, electric car charging points and the future of rural buses among others.

Somerset County Council cabinet member for economic development, planning and community infrastructure David Hall asked the secretary of state: "I would like to ask you a question as there have been some concerns about the A358, could you give some assurance the funding will stay with the scheme?

"I raise this as one of your parliamentary colleagues has raised rumours concerning the scheme, potentially to divert the money away from the scheme in favour of other projects such as improving the motorway."

Mr Grayling's short response was that 'the A358 improvements were a part of the government strategy for the area and this has not changed'.

Cllr Hall's question related to the fact Bridgwater and West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger yesterday raised concerns in parliament over whether the preferred route of the A358 had been 'leaked' to a housing developer.

Leader of Somerset County Council Cllr David Fothergill said the council would like to be considered for a pilot scheme to charge £10 or £20 a year for bus passes for the elderly.

"We could then use this money to be ring-fenced to help maintain and improve bus services.

Mr Grayling responded: "I am quite relaxed about this idea, young people pay for railcards, I don't see why the same could not apply to pensioners using buses.

"There are a number of counties interested in this pilot.

"I think there is a lot of potential for rural areas to look into demand responsive public transport - something that is almost half Uber/half bus.

"Trials are being carried out in Liverpool, Oxford and Bristol and while none of these has washed face totally but I think they have much more potential.

"The idea of buses that go A to B and B to A at set times is becoming increasingly antiquated and needs to be more flexible.

"You could have a bus that runs people to the hospital and then runs people to and from town in the evenings for example."

Following the meeting, Cllr Fothergill said: "I was delighted the Secretary of State took the time to come and talk to so many representatives from councils across the South West, and that those representatives had the opportunity to raise so many issues.

"It shows that Taunton can host a ministerial visit."

Cllr Hall added: "I was delighted to hear the Secretary of State reiterate the government's commitment to the A358 and update on progress on the A303 tunnel both of which are so important for the South West economy."